Answering The Call of Sacred Story Telling

I awoke on the morning of January 1, 2013 – New Year’s Day – with what one might consider an unusual question. “What can I do to terrify myself this year?”

Within an hour of that request, the phone rang.  A friend was inviting me to offer an evening talk on my work with women artisans around the world at a performing arts center nearby.  I am used to giving these talks, the topic is familiar and comfortable.  But what I said to my friend that morning took us both by surprise. “No. No more talks. No more speeches. I want to do a one woman show and it will be called, The Heroine’s Journey: Tales of Love, Despair, Faith and Forgiveness.”

“Oh my goodness” she exclaimed, “I had no idea you wanted to do a one woman show!”

“Neither did I,” I said totally taken aback.  “Neither did I.”

Could it have been “divine download?” Could it have been the forces of my life – my destiny – converging upon me in this strange and unexpected way?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that, once I put the phone down and agreed to perform my as yet unwritten one woman show later that summer – I danced around my living room like a little girl, deliciously happy!

In retrospect, I have to wonder whether I was being overly bold to do something I had never done before? Was I crazy risking such personal exposure in front of an audience? What if I froze on stage?  What if the audience hated it?  What if I really had nothing to say?

These were the clamoring voices of fear.

But I paid no attention, for I felt the urgency of the Call. I knew I could not walk away. Khalil Gibran refers to callings as “life’s longing for itself” and even as I felt terrified by the unfolding journey, I also felt completely, madly, alive!

I was ready to share my story with the world – with all its tender vulnerability, courage and authenticity.

Each of our stories is unique.  Mine would transport you into an eclectic world of Indian arranged marriages, British boarding schools, tyrannical African dictators, encounters with Indian holy men, Rwandan genocide survivors.  A riveting story. An evocative story.

But in sharing the story, I sought to be seen. Not looked at.  To be witnessed not judged.

Writing and performing a one woman show evokes a certain paralysis – one expects to be judged.  Each time I wrote, mindful of the audience’s reaction, I would freeze.  Imprisoned by performance anxiety, I learned to relax, to reframe the process so it would free me from this captivity.  I understood that my one woman show was not a performance but a sacred offering of one woman on the journey of her life.  My audience, invited to witness rather than judge, to engage rather than distance, to open their hearts rather than close down.

Here our collective story would simply reverberate through the voice of one storyteller.

Here the flames of our larger human story would seek to ignite ones soul.